Bristol Rovers

Memory Match – 02-05-98

Throughout the 2017/18 football season I will be contributing to the Wrexham AFC matchday programme. I will be penning a feature called Memory Match, a look back at classic Wrexham games from the past that I will share in this blog over the coming months.

This is the third successive season that I have been writing the Memory Match column. Indeed, when I have written a Memory Match for every Football League season that Wrexham AFC enjoyed,  I would like to compile all the columns into a book that will reflect the rich history of my beloved football club.

02-05-98

Southend United v Wrexham

League Division Two

Roots Hall

Result: 1-3

Southend United: Royce, Hails, Dublin, Roget (Harris), Coleman, Coulbault, Maher, Jones (Nielsen), Boere, Whyte, Clarke (Aldridge)

Goalscorer: Boere (12)

Wrexham: Marriott, McGregor, Hardy, Brammer (Owen), Humes, Carey, Chalk (Wainwright), Wilson, Spink, Roberts (Connolly), Ward.

Goalscorers: Ward (43, 86), Connolly (72)

Attendance: 4,247

The season hadn’t started well and only really came to life in February when improved displays earned Brian Flynn a Manager of the Month Award. After beating Millwall at the Racecourse in mid March, we entered the play off picture for the first time that season.

After two eighth placed finishes at the end of the previous two seasons, Wrexham were hoping to clinch a play-off place this time around, especially when you consider that during March they were third in the table and five points ahead of their nearest rivals.

However, the jitters then set in and we went on a disastrous run of eight league games without a victory. As a result, we needed to beat Southend United on the final day of the season, while hoping Bristol Rovers and Gillingham dropped points if we were to clinch the final play-off spot.

The Reds had a fantastic travelling support as always and they roared their team on in high spirits at Roots Hall. Wrexham obviously had to throw caution to the wind, but things did not start well when Jeroen Beore headed the home side ahead after only 12 minutes. This was the wake up call that our boys needed and we buckled down to try to make sure that we didn’t suffer another near miss.

Goalkeeper Andy Marriott was in great form with Brian Carey and Tony Humes providing him with rock solid cover at the heart of the defence. Peter Ward was another important figure in our strong spine. An outstanding display by the midfielder saw him curl a free-kick with his left foot past a helpless Simon Royce in the Shrimpers’ goal. This was an important strike as it came just two minutes before the break.

If only our spine had been completed with a potent goalscorer? Without any disrespect to Dean Spink or Neil Roberts, they were unlikely to grab the goals needed to fire us to promotion.

However, after the break the Robins raised their game and took the lead through Karl Connolly on 72 minutes. At this point it looked as if Wrexham would finish in the play-off zone but our hearts were broken over at the Memorial Stadium – home to Bristol Rovers – when the home side scored the odd goal in three against Brentford.

Ward grabbed his second with 4 minutes to go, but it was all academic by then

Assistant manager Kevin Reeves said: “There are a lot of dejected lads in our dressing room. They won 3-1, but it’s like a morgue in there. At one time we heard Bristol Rovers were only drawing, but when the final results came in it was like a dagger through the heart.”

***

The headline in the Leader stated that “Cup win eases play off pain” after we beat Newtown 0-2 (4-0 on aggregate) to reach the final of the first ever FAW International Cup. The journalist who came up with this article writes that “the result went some way to soften the blow of failing to qualify for the Division 2 play offs”. This was total nonsense of course as I don’t remember any scenes of joy and jubilation at Latham Park. Everyone was still gutted at missing a golden opportunity for promotion.

Two goals in a three minute spell – scored by Dean Spink and Mark Wilson – saw off the challenge of the League of Wales runners up Newtown to leave Brian Flynn’s men just 90 minutes away from tin-pot Cup glory and a cheque for £100,000.

Wrexham did win the competition after beating Cardiff City (2-1) in the final with goals from Mark Wilson and Gareth Owen, but fans could still be heard muttering “if only”….

Memory Match -15-10-63

Throughout the 2016/17 football season I will be contributing to the Wrexham AFC matchday programme. I will be penning a feature called Memory Match, a look back at classic Wrexham games from the past that I will share in this blog over the coming months. 

15-10-63

Brentford v Wrexham

League Division Three

Griffin Park

Result: 9-0

Brentford: Cakebread, Coote, Jones, Slater, Scott, Higginson, Summers, Brooks, McAdams, Ward, Hales

Goalscorers: McAdams (3, 18), Ward (8, 89), Fox (38 og), Hales (44), Brooks (54, 72), Summers (59)

Wrexham: Fleet, Jones, Holland, Morrall, Fox, Barnes, Griffiths, Myerscough, Phythian, Metcalf, Colbridge

Attendance: 10,569

 

Just 17 months after racking up our record League victory against Hartlepools United, it was time to rewrite history again at Griffin Park on a Tuesday night, albeit for less auspicious reasons. Wrexham began the game with the worst defensive record in the Third Division and 90 minutes later their “goals against” column had soared to 49 in just 14 matches.

Just six days previously at the Racecourse, Brentford had hit back from being 2-0 down to win 4-2. In London, Wrexham found themselves 2-0 down after only six minutes, but there was no sign of a fight back from a team that was short on confidence.

According to a special correspondent, writing in the Leader, “Not one Wrexham defender remotely approached a satisfactory performance. The tackling was weak, the positional play was poor and the marking was almost non existent. In short it was a pathetic display”.

I found it bizarre that the journalist that put together this match report also ponders whether a seven-hour coach trip is ideal preparation for a Football League fixture? I suppose roads were not as developed as they are now, but seven hours still seems a long time to reach the Capital.

The journey was a nightmare for goalkeeper Steve Fleet in particular, who suffered from travel sickness. The coach had to stop on two separate occasions for him to presumably throw up. This what not a good omen, but even with a shot stopper at peak fitness the scoreline would have been just as embarrassing due to a lack of cover and protection from absent defenders.

Wrexham’s forwards did not deserve to have such a poor defence behind them. Hard working Arfon Griffiths never stopped trying to take off some of the pressure and, with Ernie Phythian and Mike Metcalf, produced some neat approach play. However, mid-table Brentford’s defence, which was itself pierced five times at home by Bristol Rovers just three days previously, was now rock solid.

This was a night when the ball never stopped running for the Bees and they certainly made the most of their good fortune with every forward player scoring for them. They also profited from an own goal by Wrexham centre half Alan Fox.

Welsh international Dai Ward, signed overnight by Brentford for £8,000 from Watford, was the biggest individual threat to the Robins. He scored two of the goals and played a part in three others.

Perhaps it might have been a happier story if, with the score at 2-0, Phythian had scored instead of seeing his point-blank shot saved by Gerry Cakebread when all the odds were on a goal.

The special correspondent did not have the heart to go into detail about each Brentford goal. Instead, he simply noted the time of each goal in one harrowing paragraph.

Player-manager Ken Barnes said: “I cannot begin to explain away nine goals, but we were far too casual in defence. Something has got to be done about it.”

Nothing was done about it. This embarrassment was actually our fifth straight League defeat. This form was to continue for the next four League games as Wrexham ended up losing nine in a row. Prior to this they actually smashed fellow strugglers Barnsley 7-2 in a freak result. Things did not get better after Christmas and Wrexham were relegated back to the Fourth Division in 23rd position.

***

This wasn’t the first time we had conceded nine goals in a competitive fixture. Wolverhampton Wanderers knocked us out of the FA Cup on January 1931. We lost the third round clash 9-1.